The Seomyeon district in Busan is, in many ways, the heart of the city. Acting as the commercial and transportation hub of the city, Seomyeon houses around 1,000,000 people every day.
Seomyeon is often compared to Hongdae in Seoul. Where Hongdae is Seoul’s party and nightlife area, Seomyeon is often said to be the same for Busan. However, is it just a smaller version of Hongdae? Or is it really a unique area worth visiting?
Just this past week I finally had the chance to experience Seomyeon for a period that I considered long enough to gather some thoughts on the area. In this post, I want to share my thoughts after staying in the area for the best part of a week.
Of course, I wasn’t able to experience everything that the area had to offer. As with many popular districts in Korea, Seomyeon had almost an overwhelming amount of activities, cafes, and restaurants. While I did get to experience a lot, there are also things that I didn’t get the chance to experience.
With that being said, I would love to hear your thoughts on the area. Have you visited before? What did you think?
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Getting to Seomyeon
As Seomyeon is the transport hub of Busan, it is exceptionally easy to reach from nearly anywhere in the city. It can be found on Busan Subway Line 1 and Line 2 (orange and green lines).
If you prefer to take transport above the ground, Seomyeon is also very easy to reach. As one of the busiest intersections in the city, a large number of buses pass through the area and you will be able to find public transport to the intersection from anywhere in the city.
If you arrive in Busan at Busan Station (where anyone who takes the KTX from Seoul will arrive), simply follow Line 1 (orange) north 6 stops. This will take around 10-15 minutes and will take you right to the heart of Seomyeon.
If you arrive in Busan at the airport (Gimhae), you can take the train from Gimhae International Airport to Sasang. Once there, transfer to line 2 (green) and proceed 8 stops in Gamjeon direction.
Hint – mid-week flights from Seoul to Busan can be found for as low as $30!
From the station, you have a variety of different exits that will each take you to different areas. For example, if you are interested in visiting the cafe street, then head south out of Exit 2.
Alternatively, perhaps the most popular exits (as they lead straight into the main shopping and dining areas) are 1 and 3. From these exits it is only a short 2 minute walk to reach the bustling areas (one of which can be seen in the image below).
Finally, if you are interested in shopping for brands (think Nike, Fila, Samsung, etc), you can check out the local Lotte Mall. This can be found at Exit 7 and is unmissable.
Even better, there is a large underground shopping mall that can be easily accessed from the station. To enter the shopping mall, simply exit out Exit 1 or Exit 2 and proceed straight ahead. You should quickly come to stairs underground (they will look like a subway entrance). Proceed down these and you will find the underground shopping mall!
Seomyeon has a lot of different attractions that can be found simply by exploring the area. There is a very diverse list of restaurants and cafes in the area, and it is also one of the best places (if not the best!) in Busan to go shopping. On top of this, it is also the nightlife centre of the city.
On our visit to Seomyeon, we spent a lot of time in the local cafes and on Seomyeon’s Cafe Street. If you aren’t already aware, South Korea has a fascinating cafe and coffee culture that is very unique and can’t be found elsewhere.
While there are many great cafes all over the city, there is a large concentration of them around Cafe Street. This area contains many cafes located close to one another and you can easily browse before choosing where to enjoy some coffee.
If you would like a recommendation, I would suggest DOCO City Farmhouse Cafe. This cafe offers some fantastic beverages and it also has a nice and calming atmosphere inside. If you would prefer to enjoy some coffee in the sun, you can also do that!
Another very popular attraction for many people is the food street. While many people use the term ‘food street’ I don’t particularly agree with it – the whole area has a lot of food options, and it’s really more like a ‘food town’.
Although it can often be difficult to find specific foreign foods in certain parts of Busan (or even Seoul), Seomyeon has nearly everything that you can imagine. Whether you are looking for Korean food, Mexican food, or Indian food, the chances are it can be found here.
If you are looking for the best restaurants, I would suggest that you look upwards. This is a great tip for Korean cities in general, but especially in this area. While there are a lot of good restaurants at ground level, there are hundreds more if you look at the signs above street level.
Often you will find the best restaurants on the second or third floor. While these aren’t as visible or easy to find, they are well worth looking out for as some of them are fantastic.
Another popular pastime for locals (and visitors) that are enjoying Seomyeon is to go shopping. The area has hundreds of different stores that sell a vast range of different goods. If you are looking for more trendy stores, stick to the streets.
Seomyeon ‘market’ streets near Exit 13.
However, if you are looking for big brands then make sure to check out the local malls such as the Lotte Department Store. These malls are found all over Korea, and the one found at Seomyeon is on the bigger side.
Inside the mall you will find floors upon floors of famous brands for all kinds of products. There are floors dedicated to clothing, children’s toys, electronics, furniture and more. If you are looking for food and don’t mind more pricey food, there is also a large food court.
While the area offers great food and drink options along with shopping, none of these are the biggest strengths of the area. Rather, that award goes to the entertainment that Seomyeon offers.
No other area in Busan is as rich in activities as this. If you have visited Hongdae before, think of Seomyeon like that. It offers karaoke (although, in fairness, so does everywhere in Korea), bars, nightclubs, arcades, and more. If you want to be entertained all day (and night) then this is a great area to enjoy.
It also has some of the best bars and clubs in the city. While there are a lot of bars located around the coastal areas (Haeundae and Gwangalli), Seomyeon is more convenient for many people and the prices are also often a bit lower.
By now you should realise that Seomyeon has nearly limitless things to do. The one downside is that everything costs – if you want to enjoy Seomyeon as much as possible, expect to spend a lot of money.
Seomyeon vs Hongdae
Before I compare these two areas I want to say that they are both unique. They both have different appeals, and it’s impossible to say that one is definitely better than the other.
However, I often get asked which of these two areas is better. While Hongdae obviously makes sense if you are staying in Seoul, and Seomyeon if you are in Busan, there are also many short-term travellers who only want to visit one nightlife or entertainment district and they wonder which to visit.
If this is a question that you are asking yourself, I would generally recommend Hongdae. While Seomyeon is an interesting area, I don’t feel like it plays to Busan’s strengths. Busan is a unique city because of its coastal location and its unique culture.
However, the Seomyeon area doesn’t play to these strengths. It’s just a large, built-up city area. This is Seoul’s strength. No city in Korea beats Seoul in regards to entertainment areas, and Busan is no different. For that reason, I find it far easier to recommend Hongdae.
Prices are comparable, but Hongdae is much larger with a greater variety of stores and entertainment. Both areas are very crowded, however, Seomyeon feels a bit less so. It’s also easier to reach.
Where to Stay in Seomyeon
There are a ton of different accommodation options in the area. After all, it is the centre of Busan. If you are interested in browsing the different accommodation options, you can do so here.
We stayed at Hotel TT when we visited, and I think it was a great choice. We were looking for somewhere that wasn’t too expensive, but that was also definitely a hotel (rather than a motel) and was comfortable and nice.
Hotel TT was just that. I was actually surprised at how reasonable the pricing was after visiting the hotel and looking at the rooms myself. I can imagine paying a significant amount more and still being happy with rooms like those offered here.
The hotel is located around 10 minutes from the station and it is easy to reach. While it isn’t in the busy area of Seomyeon, it’s close enough so that you can easily reach the party and entertainment areas.
The rooms were large and spacious and all of the facilities were clean. There was a self-serve convenience store on the first floor which was also great for whenever we wanted beer, coffee, or snacks.
Conclusion – Seomyeon, Heart of Busan
Seomyeon is a bustling area in the centre of Busan and it’s somewhere that you can easily spend hours exploring. It’s a great area to stay because it is so central to the majority of the attractions that Busan has to offer.
It’s also a great place to stay because it has many dining and cafe options, allowing you to choose freely what you want to eat every day. I have had issues with hotels before that are located in less built-up areas as they often have very limited food options close to the hotel.
While Seomyeon was a lot of fun to explore, I also felt like it lacked. Of course, this is just my opinion, and many people love the area. However, I have lived in Seoul for four years at this point, and Seomyeon felt just like Seoul… But worse.
Areas in Seoul such as Hongdae, Myeongdong, Gangnam and Itaewon have more to offer. While Busan does have its unique appeals (such as the ocean and location), Seomyeon doesn’t play to any of these strengths and it just feels like a city area – something which Seoul excels at.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t visit. If you have read this post and still want to visit, I would recommend it for sure! However, these were my personal experiences as someone who is used to Seoul and life in the capital.